Oct 2018 15

Day 15

Posted In Blog,The world

Spending October, Sober. A writer’s ongoing journal of 31 days without alcohol. An on-topic WIP short story…



‘Cause time is short and life is cruel
But it’s up to us to change
this Town called Malice’


The bass riff of The Jam was my ear worm that late winter. But I kept this information to myself. My friends were listening to Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, KISS, and Van Halen. Y’know, cool stuff. The kind of bands you could get on a t-shirt at the kiosk in the local mall. There, for the bargain of a couple weeks’ allowance, they used a giant hot iron press to help you proudly advertise your allegiance to the cool army. A black short sleeve tee was wicked, but a black concert-style number with ¾ length white sleeves, even better. That would certainly move you a few notches further from the nerd end of the scale.

Who was this band I couldn’t shake from my head, ‘The Jam’? And why did they sound so different? No wailing guitar solo. No flourishing Rock cymbal-crashing finish. Hearing them on the radio for the first time was like seeing a beacon of plaid paint shining out from a primary palette. They were not in the iron-on transfer catalogue at the kiosk. I had checked.

So I kept this ear worm infection a secret.

One weekend, I was off to my friend J’s house for a sleepover. J and I became best friends in Grade 1. We had shoplifted together, burnt stuff together, and went on long missions seeking out empty pop bottles to return for money to fund our arcade habit. Bonding stuff. Until he had moved a year before this, that is. “Ever heard of ‘Divorce’ ?” J said to me when I asked why they suddenly had to sell their house and move miles away, and also why his mom didn’t live with them anymore. Anyhow, it didn’t matter. Despite the months that had gone by between our visits, burning stuff was an unbreakable bond (I can still smell the bouquet an ant gives off as it bursts into flames from a well-positioned magnifying glass), and surely I could talk to J about ‘The Jam’. He’d get it.

My dad drove me to J’s on a Friday, right after school. It would be two days of goofing around.


‘Hanging out their old love letters on the line to dry
It’s enough to make you stop believing
when tears come fast and furious.
In a town called Malice.’


“Who’s this B guy, and why are we going to his place?”

I had barely dropped my stuff at J’s house, and we were already on the move, out the door, on foot. No time to make a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches like we used to, or engage in a snowball fight with one of his three brothers. Or talk about The Jam.

“A buddy I hang out with. His parents are away so we’re gonna go there for awhile.”


Cigarettes. Maybe I’d finally get to try a cigarette.

B and his evidently globe-trotting parents lived in an apartment building. A nice one. It was the first time I saw a doorman and concierge in my life. Whatever floor we went to, there were a lot of elevator buttons lower than B’s.

We materialized into a small party. Cigarette smoke, beer cans, full ashtrays. Loud music. ¾ length sleeve concert t-shirts abounded on the half-dozen kids I was being introduced to by J.

They were just hanging out. Teens, hanging out in a large apartment with a balcony view, matching couches, and well-cared for 6-ft tall palm plants. Even the wallpaper looked expensive.

I accepted a beer from B like it was no big deal, but it was. My first hang out beer. J had gone to talk to some of the group and I sat on the couch to try to let my adolescence catch up to my reality. The lone girl of the group sat down on the coffee table in front of me. She looked like she had stepped out of one of my sister’s magazines. Easily the most beautiful girl I had ever met to that point in my life. Long dark hair, slate blue eyes that were so huge she looked like an animated Disney character come to life, and long, slender legs that stretched through the floor into the apartment below. She already moved with the confidence of women I would only meet much later in life.

“Don’t mind the stitches on my chin,” she said.

“Huh?” I hadn’t noticed.

“I got a mole removed. My mom said it would be bad for my future modelling career. I get them out in a few days.”

Only now did I register a couple of black hair-like threads jutting out from a spot on the left side of her chin. There were so many beautiful things to take in about her face, that her chin was really far down the list of places you’d gaze. You’d eventually get there to admire it, but it was a secondary destination. To this day, I wonder if she regrets removing that mole. It would have made her perfectly imperfect.

I could see J in the corner, talking to his friends about me. They all looked at me like they knew I was ‘The Jam’ curious.

But when J finally joined me, he was his friendly self. Still the best friend who had put me up to my first kissing tag with a girl many years ago. Gail. Her name was Gail. And I kissed her under the jungle gym. I can still see her wispy blonde hair and her sundress as she looked at me, expecting me to kiss her. She hadn’t even tried to run for some reason. It was tag for crying out loud.

“It’s all good, right? J said. “Later, we’re going to hang out at the plaza and meet some other people.”

I sipped my beer. It was cold. Not like the warm swill I had salvaged from the bottom of one of my Uncle’s empties left on a coffee table once when everyone had left the room.

Some time later, one beer down, a few puffs of a cigarette tried (head rush!), and J telling me that the freshly non-moled girl would sometimes go into the woods with one of them and make out, we were again on the move.

Dark now, mid-March in Canada. And we were all underdressed with the anticipation of spring starting at any moment. I didn’t have mitts and I trudged along with my hands crammed deep into the pockets of my jeans as I followed the jovial convoy of J and his friends to the plaza where we met a few others who I was unable to distinguish from those I had just met. We were now an even larger group of denim and leather jackets and white Nike sneakers. How many parents were out of town, I did not know.

Your standard suburban strip plaza of the era, there was a convenience store, a supermarket, some various other shops closed for the night – I imagine a bakery, hair salon, and pet supplies place – and, a McDonald’s.

“Your turn, G” someone said.

G disappeared into the McDonald’s as the rest of us conspicuously hung out under some bright lights in the sparsely occupied parking lot. A lit cigarette was being passed around. With the bravado of being miles from home, I took a puff, but didn’t these kids actually live around here?

And then G emerged clutching two large McDonald’s drinks with straws stabbed into the top. No sacks of cheeseburgers. No fries. Not even a damn Apple Pie. Just two drinks.


‘The ghost of a steam train echoes down my track
It’s at the moment bound for nowhere
Just going round and round, oh’




Things I didn’t even remember eating were being puked up by me into J’s house toilet in a heaving splatter.

“I dunno know, Dad.”

I could hear J being interrogated by his father outside the bathroom door. The voices were echoing in the toilet bowl as my head was buried deep in it. Still wearing shoes, and my jacket, I was on my knees on the tiled floor and probably wrecking my new jeans in the process. But I didn’t care. My body was more interested in projectile vomiting all its contents in a fury.

“Sip! Sip! Sip! Sip!” they had all chanted, cheering me on as I sucked furiously on a McDonald’s straw. We were now in a wooded area behind the plaza and Whoops and Hollers greeted me as I finished my turn and passed the waxed cup to the next person. McDonalds orange drink and … something else. Something I’d never tasted before.

But I was now tasting it again as it exited my body. Despite never wanting that new and bitter flavour mixed with Orange Drink in my mouth again, I was desperate to evacuate my own stomach lining.

I don’t know if I kissed that girl in the woods. I don’t know if anyone said “Kid, you’re cool! No wonder J says you’re his best friend!”. I don’t know how J got me back to his house, or how I got upstairs to the bathroom. I don’t know if we discussed the musical prowess of the ones who called themselves ‘The Jam’.

The room was spinning. Or I was. Probably both. There I was on my knees, hugging that porcelain bowl, gripping it like I would fall out of the ride if I didn’t. A premium 6 ticket midway ride, for sure.

Now the sound of my own dry heaves echoed in the bowl over and over. And finally, spent, I slumped off to the side and welcomed the cool tile floor pressing against my face. My ear worm turned up the volume and I focused on the bass riff of The Jam, now on repeat, and decided to get lost in it.

Cold tile was replaced by soft upholstery against my face as I stared into a bucket planted on the floor in the unmistakeable backseat of my dad’s car. It was now early morning, and instead of McDonald’s-Orange-Drink-inspired spinning, I knew the movement I felt was the car in motion. My dad, called early by J’s dad to come and get me, at the wheel. For my own good, I stayed in fetal position all the way home.

Home. Screw the inevitable coming repercussions, the last place I ever wanted to be was suddenly the only place I wanted to be.

“What’s wrong with him?” my mom asked as my dad helped me into the lobby. Even our dog looked at me like he knew I’d puked up both kidneys back at J’s house.

I would be grounded til I was legal drinking age, I figured.

“It’s okay,” my dad said. “He’s got the flu.”

Supported by the walls, I shuffled upstairs to my room. There, I peeled off my puke streamed jacket, my shoes and jeans, and my cool black mall-kiosk iron-pressed Corvette t-shirt. I was never so happy to see my own bed. I flopped on it, shivering, dragged the covers across me, and something resembling sleep closed in.

Even now, I can not smell Canadian Club Whisky without getting the mouth sweats.

I was barely three months past my 12th birthday.


‘Playground kids and creaking swings
Lost laughter in the breeze
I could go on for hours and I probably will
But I’d sooner put some joy back
In this town called Malice’


Town Called Malice – lyrics, Paul Weller